A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Adventures in Stamp Collecting

StampsStamps (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

             In my previous post I provided an overview of what stamp collecting was about and the plus side of being a stamp collector.  That post was primarily an objective look at the hobby and a general look at stamp collecting as a part of my life.   This post will provide a closer look at my adventures as a stamp collector.

          One doesn't usually think of stamp collecting as an adventure, but when you're a kid anything and everything can be an adventure.  This is especially true when you receive a brand new boxed something or other labeled as a "kit" or "set".  This mystery package is like a treasure chest waiting to be opened.   I was thrilled when I received my first stamp collecting kit in 1960 when I was in the third grade.

          My Discoverer Stamp Album kit provided everything I needed to get started as a stamp collector.  The adventure began on the floor of my bedroom in the Clairemont Mesa neighborhood where my family lived in San Diego, California.  I spent hours poring over that first packet of stamps and mounting them in my new album.  I carefully studied the accompanying guide book to learn about the proper way to handle stamps and how to identify where they were from.  I learned professional philatelic terms like perforations, watermarks, and plate blocks.   Within several days I felt like I was becoming a professional stamp collector.

         As with any collecting hobby, my adventure had now become a quest.  I made regular visits to the  Rasco Five and Dime store at the nearby Quad shopping center.  This was the first store where I found a display of stamp collecting supplies.  Whenever I was in Rasco's I would look through the packets of stamps to see which ones I would buy when I had enough money,   If I had the money I would buy as many packets as I could afford.  Little by little I began building a sizable collection.

          When the Mission Valley Shopping Center opened in 1961, an amazing new world of stamp collecting was opened to me.   The May Company department store had a complete philatelic department with stamps displayed in glass counters like jewelry.  There were actual clerks who had expert knowledge in the field of stamp collecting.  By this time I was a much more experienced collector, yet I was still a kid in the world of the stamp pros.

           I always looked forward to my mother's trips to the Mission Valley Center (the term mall hadn't fallen into general use at that time).  She would leave me at the philatelic department where I would stay until she was done with her shopping.  Perusing the stamps on display I would make up my wish lists of the stamp sets I would hope to get for Christmas or buy with money I would be getting.  The stamp prices here were higher end than those inexpensive packets at Rasco's, but this was real stamp collecting--complete sets, mint (unused) stamps, and harder to find stamps.  My collection was becoming bigger and I had graduated to a much nicer hard cover stamp album.  The larger selection offered by the May Company was now what I needed.

          Wherever I went I was always on the lookout for places that sold stamps.  I still recall the surprise of finding a box of assorted stamps at a penny a piece at a tacky souvenir store in Tijuana, Mexico.  I bought several on that visit and since we went to the border town with some frequency I would usually return to see what new gems they had in the box.

           Later, after we had moved to Northern Indiana in 1963, on one of our juggling performance trips playing county fairs, we stopped in the small town of Rush City, Minnesota.  The only store open downtown--there really wasn't much of a town--was an old general store that had probably been there since the early part of the century.

           Inside it was musty smelling and dimly lit.  The place looked frozen in the past like no one had been there in decades.  I don't know if the place was intended to be an antique store, but much of the  stock on the shelves could probably be classified as antique.  A congenial old man who was probably the owner was the only one there.  While my parents looked about, I was drawn to some shelves along one wall and as though by instinct I found a cigar box filled with old stamps.  They were four cents each--more expensive than the Tijuana store offered--but they were older stamps that made them more valuable.

             I bought about twenty of the stamps that appealed to me the most.   I don't know if I got a good deal or not, but I'm pretty sure they were worth more than I paid for them.  They went back into my collection which was now fairly substantial--several thousand stamps mounted in six albums with many others tucked away in glassine envelopes stored in file boxes.

              I had a very neatly organized collection.  And this is how it remains.   I stopped actively collecting in high school, but my interest has continued.  One day the adventure may resume.  But it was a fun adventure while it lasted.


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Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Life as a Stamp Collector

Photograph of random assortment of US and Cana...Photograph of random assortment of US and Canada postage stamps, private collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Stamp collecting used to be more popular than it seems to be these days.  Any self-respecting variety store--five and dime stores they were usually called--had a small section devoted to stamp collecting supplies and albums and an assortment of packaged stamps from around the world.  Most of the packages were priced at ten cents or a quarter, but some larger packets might be as much as a dollar or more.  Many of these items usually came from the H. E. Harris Company in Boston, Massachusetts.

         I first started collecting stamps in the third or fourth grade, most likely having been inspired by my father who had collected stamps when he was a boy.   I started with the small paperbound Discoverer album from the Harris Company.  The album came in a kit that included an international assortment of stamps, stamp hinges for mounting the stamps in the album, a small guidebook about philately (the actual name for stamp collecting), and a small plastic magnifying glass.

         The thrill of opening a stamp assortment was always a new adventure. Learning how to identify the countries that the stamps came from was an educational experience which was enhanced by the themes depicted on the stamps.   A stamp collector can learn much about history, geography, flora and fauna, and culture of countries by studying the illustrations depicted on the stamps.  I would take things further by finding the countries on a map and looking in the encyclopedia for more information about the countries that particularly intrigued me.

          More than once I used stamps for school assignments as they were ideal accompaniments for projects in history, geography, or science.  Stamp collecting was also the topic of a merit badge in cub scouts. I found several friends who also collected stamps and we inspired others to start.  The communal experience of collecting together, admiring each others collections, and trading stamps allowed for many hours of fun that was intellectually stimulating.

         My old stamp collection still sits in a closet in my home office.  I even occasionally purchase new stamps from the post office and save them for my collection.  Whenever I see an stamp on an envelope I'll tear it off and tuck it away in a large envelope I keep for stamps.   I'm not a very active stamp collector these days.  But maybe someday I'll get back into the stamp collecting habit.  It can become a habit--and a relaxing one at that.

          Did you ever collect stamps?   Do you collect them now?   What are some things you have collected or still collect?
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Appreciating the Zealotry of the #atozchallenge

      I found a blogfest over at Denise Covey's L'Aussie blog where she's asking us to repost our favorite blog post from the A to Z Challenge. Go to her site to find the Linky list to read more blogs or sign up with your own.  This was kind of difficult to say one was the favorite, but here's one that I liked.   



Illinois

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln's home in Spring...Photograph of Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         I had known of the existence of Illinois since second grade.  At least that's when Illinois as a specific geographical location became evident to me. We drove through it when we were moving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California.  We stopped in Springfield and visited Abraham Lincoln's house and that was what I knew about Illinois at that time.

         Five years later we made another move--this time to Northwestern Indiana.  Once again we passed through Illinois.  Over the next few years my family would occasionally go perform our juggling act at various Illinois county fairs, but still the state somehow didn't register with me.  Illinois was a place that you either passed through or if you were there you didn't really notice that you were there.  To me at the time Illinois seemed like one big nondescript cornfield.

          The Chicagoland area didn't count.  We were there often, but I didn't think of Illinois when I was there.  Chicago was like its own state--a state without cornfields.  Chicago seemed real while the rest of the state seemed like a place that Chicagoans might dream about when they were asleep.  Then they would awaken, briefly puzzled, before rubbing their eyes and going about the business of living in an urban area.

          It was not until the mid-1970s when I woke up to the fact that Illinois was a real place that was actually interesting.  I had gone to work on the Ken Griffin Magic and Illusion Show.  They had ties to some people in Southern Illinois and the show gravitated toward that region for a while as we started doing promotional work and then performing the stage show.  We became immersed in towns like Mount Vernon, Salem,  Olney, and Effingham.

         There was something peaceful about the towns and down-to-earth about the people.  There were cornfields and farms like I had always seen before, but there were also small businesses, industries, and educational institutions.  Illinois was a real place with heart and value.  Illinois is a nice place to visit and probably not that bad of a place to live.

          When you think of Illinois what is the first thing that comes into your mind?   Do you think of rural areas as boring nondescript sorts of places?



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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is an easy life an interesting life?

Tom's Restaurant, a diner at 112th Street and ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            Today is the last day to sign up for the A to Z Challenge Reflections.  If you would like to tell us your thoughts about the April A to Z event you can sign up at the A to Z Blog.   I'm keeping posts on my blogs relatively short this week so I can focus on the many Reflections posts.

           Often a memoir deals with the life of a notable person of social, historical, or cultural significance.  When most people think of biography this is probably what they expect.   Many other memoirs deal with overcoming obstacles in life, recounting a rise to success, or coping with traumatic memories or events.   But what about the life that doesn't fit any of these descriptions.

             I often hear people say, "No one would want to hear about my boring life", but is that true?  Is any life so boring that it could not be possibly written in such a way to make it interesting?  The way I see it, it's not so much the content of the life but how well it is written.

            What do you think?   Would an exquisitely written memoir about a so-called boring life be something you would read?    Could you get into a serious version of a "Seinfeld Show" type of story?    Would a "dull" life story have to be funny to be entertaining?   Are there any interesting memoirs you have read about lives that might seem insignificant on the surface?



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Saturday, May 5, 2012

#atozchallenge: Reflections Post -- Home Again

A to Z Badge artwork by Ada Z from collagepodge.com
         
           When my eclectic Tossing It Out blog started getting too eclectic, I decided to create spin-off blogs to focus on certain reoccurring topics of that main blog.  My blog about dreams A Faraway View and my meditative Psalm blog A Few Words both deal with topics that are very dear to me.  However, my memoir blog Wrote By Rote is my special pet blog project.

          During the A to Z Challenge my Wrote By Rote entries were my favorites to write.  Recalling these memories was poignant and fun.  Memoir is perhaps where my truest heart of writing is.  I do plan to write a memoir or memoirs eventually, not so much as a biographical account of a famous person who has made a great impact on society, but as my observations on my world as I have experienced it.  The A to Z April Challenge was my chance to bring a greater fullness to what my memoir venture could one day be.

           In my 26 entries of April I have looked at some of the places that have stood out in my life.  I experimented in some entries with describing these places and in others telling some of the stories that I remember about places where I have been.  It was not a linear story, but a collection of random stand-alone vignettes.  One thing that I take away from the April Challenge is that I love writing memoir as much as I enjoy reading about other people's lives.  

           My thanks go out to all who read some or all of my entries and to those who left comments.  The stories remain for those who would like to go back to read them.  If you do read any of them, please leave me a comment.  I'd like to hear your thoughts about any of these stories.

Here are the links to my Wrote By Rote entries for the A to Z Challenge:








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